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Old 06-02-2007, 09:31 AM   #1
KaVir
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Lasher recently drew my attention to an uncoming game called "Gods War", which obviously sounds rather similar to "God Wars". I was a little concerned about God of War and God of War II when they came out, but at least those were console games. Gods War, on the other hand, is graphical mud (MMORPG).

While I don't really mind other games using similar names, my major concern is that they might try to force me to change the name of my game - although I imagine they'd have serious trouble trying to erase the last 12 years of God Wars history, not to mention the fact that there are around a hundred muds based on the GodWars codebase.

I'm sure I'm not the first person to run into this issue, but I don't recall seeing any other muds deal with it (other than a few one-week-wonder muds, or two muds that split from the same game). Anyone have any thoughts on this matter?
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Old 06-02-2007, 10:01 AM   #2
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I think the immediate problem you'd run into is that the name isn't very 'unusual', for lack of a better term. If anyone had a complaint, it would be Sony, as their product is roughly as similar in name, and much more widely known. (They also have additional legal steps in place, such as registered trademarks and such.)

Could you make the case that the MMORPG gameplay is based off of your work? I think with the name alone, you can't do anything about. I don't think changing your name is a good plan, since you'll lose branding, but you might want to adopt a second, more unique word as a subtitle, like: "Godwars, ____". At the very least, so people looking for you can rapidly find you by searching.
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Old 06-02-2007, 01:43 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ June 02 2007,09:31)
Lasher recently drew my attention to an uncoming game called "Gods War", which obviously sounds rather similar to "God Wars". I was a little concerned about God of War and God of War II when they came out, but at least those were console games. Gods War, on the other hand, is graphical mud (MMORPG).

While I don't really mind other games using similar names, my major concern is that they might try to force me to change the name of my game - although I imagine they'd have serious trouble trying to erase the last 12 years of God Wars history, not to mention the fact that there are around a hundred muds based on the GodWars codebase.
My non-lawyerly understanding of the situation in the US, at least, is that if they trademarked God War, they might be able to stop you using God Wars, which would be a fairly clear infringement on their trademark. I don't think you'd be able to file for a trademark because afaik God Wars is non-commercial, and trademarks may only be obtained in relation to commercial activity. I wonder if you could stick a few google ads on your site though and claim that God Wars 2 is a commercial enterprise, then register for a trademark? I have no idea.

A quick US trademark search shows that God of War is a registered trademark (by Sony) but God War and God Wars is not. I bet there's a decent chance that trying to trademark "Gods War" or "God Wars" as a game-related trademark would be rejected, in which case you've got nothing to worry about since if Sony was going to come after you for GodWars I'd imagine they'd have done it by now.

--matt
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Old 06-03-2007, 03:52 AM   #4
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You seem to worry an awful lot kavir.

I don't think any company would bother getting negative publicity by suing some underdog. They'd just spend a fraction of the money a lawsuit would cost to kick your google rating for those keywords below the first five pages, next forget about your existence just like anyone else.
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Old 06-03-2007, 07:13 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (scandum @ June 03 2007,09:52)
I don't think any company would bother getting negative publicity by suing some underdog.
Sadly your opinion has little basis in reality. A number of muds have been threatened with legal action in the past, and "going for the little fish" has become a popular tactic among certain companies, as it gives them an easy way of establishing precedent - and that's just for copyright infringements. Trademarks tend to be far more rigorously defended, as (unlike copyrights) they can actually be lost if not defended.
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Old 06-03-2007, 10:51 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ June 03 2007,07:13)
Sadly your opinion has little basis in reality.
Sadly that goes bothways. I've yet to hear of a mud being legally threatened for a trademark violation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ June 03 2007,07:13)
Trademarks tend to be far more rigorously defended, as (unlike copyrights) they can actually be lost if not defended.
Given you've been using Godwars for over a decade you kind of refute your own argument here.
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Old 06-03-2007, 02:46 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (scandum @ June 03 2007,10:51)
Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ June 03 2007,07:13)
Sadly your opinion has little basis in reality.
Sadly that goes bothways. I've yet to hear of a mud being legally threatened for a trademark violation.
I know of three that have been.

--matt
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Old 06-03-2007, 02:55 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (scandum @ June 03 2007,10:51)
Given you've been using Godwars for over a decade you kind of refute your own argument here.
How does the fact that he's been using Godwars for over a decade matter given that the only potential trademark that he MIGHT be infringing on (and that's a pretty big and speculative stretch imho) is from 2004 and that the game he's worried about (Gods War) hasn't registered a trademark yet?

Do you really think the law expects people to look into the future and not use a trademark that someone else might, sometime in the future, decide to use?

--matt
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Old 06-03-2007, 04:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (the_logos @ June 03 2007,2:46)
Quote:
Originally Posted by (scandum @ June 03 2007,10:51)
Quote:
Originally Posted by KaVir,June 03 2007,07:13
Sadly your opinion has little basis in reality.
Sadly that goes bothways. I've yet to hear of a mud being legally threatened for a trademark violation.
I know of three that have been.
I'm curious what the fuss was about in those cases, whether there were copyright violations involved as well, and if the suers got their way.

Regarding Godwars, if anyone makes a trademark claim Kavir can state he's been using Godwars for over a decade without the one claiming to own the trademark complaining.
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Old 06-03-2007, 06:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (the_logos @ June 03 2007,2:46)
I know of three that have been.

--matt
I'm with Matt and KaVir, I've seen a few MUDs which have been threatened with legal action based on copyright.

Of course, they've been different than this case though. Most of the one's I've heard of were based on a world that was already copyrighted, such as Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. It just doesn't happen that often.
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Old 06-03-2007, 11:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (scandum @ June 03 2007,4:38)
Regarding Godwars, if anyone makes a trademark claim Kavir can state he's been using Godwars for over a decade without the one claiming to own the trademark complaining.
Scandum wrote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by
I'm curious what the fuss was about in those cases, whether there were copyright violations involved as well, and if the suers got their way.
There were copyright violations involved in 2 of the three cases and in all three, a lawsuit was never needed as there was no doubt the su-ee wasn't in a position to defend his work. Two of the MUDs were hobbyist and one a struggling commercial MUD.

Quote:
Originally Posted by
Regarding Godwars, if anyone makes a trademark claim Kavir can state he's been using Godwars for over a decade without the one claiming to own the trademark complaining.
Well, two things. First, nobody owns a trademark on "Godwars" currently or "Gods War" or "God Wars" currently in the US. There's a trademark for "God of War" by Sony that was registered in 2004. So, nothing before 2004 is really relevant.

Second, as Kavir isn't using "Godwars" in a commercial context, he doesn't have a trademark on "Godwars". If someone were to register "Godwars" (after having used it in a commercial context) tomorrow and the USPTO accepted the registration, and the new trademark owner decided to be an a-hole about things, it seems possible (to this non-lawyer at least) that he could go after Kavir and force him to stop using Godwars.

It just seems unlikely to me, as I bet Sony would object to anyone trying to register "Gods War" in a video game context, and Sony hasn't come after Kavir.

--matt
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Old 06-04-2007, 10:22 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (the_logos @ June 03 2007,11:04)
There were copyright violations involved in 2 of the three cases and in all three, a lawsuit was never needed as there was no doubt the su-ee wasn't in a position to defend his work.
So what are the details of the case where only a trademark violation was the problem?

--Scandum <span style='font-family:1'>™</span>
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Old 06-04-2007, 10:59 AM   #13
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Didn't Fallout MUD have some problems with Interplay after they released Fallout I? I vaguely remember they were able to keep their name due to the fact that they had existed well before the CRPG.
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Old 06-04-2007, 11:46 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (scandum @ June 04 2007,4:22)
So what are the details of the case where only a trademark violation was the problem?
Gemstone perhaps? After their licence with ICE expired they had to rename a load of things, such as the gameworld ("Kulthea" became "Elanthia"), deities, etc.
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Old 06-04-2007, 04:38 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ June 04 2007,11:46)
Gemstone perhaps? After their licence with ICE expired they had to rename a load of things, such as the gameworld ("Kulthea" became "Elanthia"), deities, etc.
I looked it up and that was a copyright issue.
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Old 06-04-2007, 06:29 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (scandum @ June 04 2007,10:38)
Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ June 04 2007,11:46)
Gemstone perhaps?  After their licence with ICE expired they had to rename a load of things, such as the gameworld ("Kulthea" became "Elanthia"), deities, etc.
I looked it up and that was a copyright issue.
Cite, please. Names are protected by trademarks, not by copyright law.
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Old 06-05-2007, 04:19 AM   #17
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From Wikipedia:

Quote:
Originally Posted by
GemStone originally operated with a license to use the Rolemaster game mechanics and Shadow World environment from Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE). Several years later, Simutronics and ICE agreed to let the business relationship expire, necessitating the removal of all ICE intellectual property from GemStone.
Didn't tolkien have the name 'hobbit' as a trademark of some sort?


Anyway, Angie addressed Fallout MUD which seems to indicate that prior existence might have some legal or social bearing.
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Old 06-05-2007, 06:01 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (scandum @ June 05 2007,10:19)
From Wikipedia:

Quote:
Originally Posted by
GemStone originally operated with a license to use the Rolemaster game mechanics and Shadow World environment from Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE). Several years later, Simutronics and ICE agreed to let the business relationship expire, necessitating the removal of all ICE intellectual property from GemStone.
The rest of that paragraph reads:

Many of the game changes were simply renaming ICE names, such as changing the world name from Kulthea to Elanthia, and renaming the deities while keeping their previous characteristics.

Renaming would be due to trademark infringement, which is also a type of intellectual property, rights to which can be granted by licence (for example the d20 System licence, which allows you to use various WotC trademarks).

Quote:
Originally Posted by
Didn't tolkien have the name 'hobbit' as a trademark of some sort?
It's a trademark owned by the Tolkien estate, yes, although Tolkien wasn't the first to use the name.
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Old 06-05-2007, 12:22 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (scandum @ June 05 2007,04:19)
Anyway, Angie addressed Fallout MUD which seems to indicate that prior existence might have some legal or social bearing.
It has social bearing, but afaik, no legal bearing. Trademarks don't exist outside of a commercial context. Hobbyists are not entitled to trademarks because the whole point of trademarks is to protect unique identifiers around a commercial service or product.
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Old 06-05-2007, 05:03 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (the_logos @ June 05 2007,12:22)
It has social bearing, but afaik, no legal bearing. Trademarks don't exist outside of a commercial context. Hobbyists are not entitled to trademarks because the whole point of trademarks is to protect unique identifiers around a commercial service or product.
Fist off, standard disclaimer. I am not a lawyer. Seek appropriate legal help in your community.

You do not have to be a commercial organization to apply for a trademark. Registering with the IRS as a not-for-profit organization would allow trademarking of the name. Non-profit organizations, which the God Wars community should qualify for (as they are both artisitic and for the public benefit), can apply for and receive trademarks.

As an example of a non-profit winning a trademark case over a for-profit (commercial) enterprise see the WWF.

You can also check your state to see if they allow trade name registration. I know I use a fictitious name for myself with my music, and it is registered in my state (and is listed on all my copyright forms as a pseudonym). Trade name registration would provide legal basis to show that the name is in use, especially if you choose to object to a company's trademark application.
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